WAGION LODGE #6 – EARLY YEARS (1921-1965)
Boy Scouts first appeared in the Westmoreland-Fayette counties in 1911. In 1920, a First-Class Council was organized at Uniontown in Fayette County.
John Getz, Scout Executive of the Uniontown, Pennsylvania Council, sent a formal application “for the institution of a Lodge of the Wimachtendienk” to E. Urner Goodman, Scout Executive in Philadelphia on June 7, 1921. The Lodge became known as Umpah Lodge 6 and was associated with the Scout Camp at Confluence, Pennsylvania. The Lodge was chartered under the supervision of Mr. Getz and operated under the auspices of the Philadelphia council. The totem for Umpah was a white buffalo. Mr. R.C. Witt became the Scout Executive in Uniontown late 1923. After several unsuccessful attempts to keep Umpah Lodge organized, he finally recommended on May 15, 1925 that the Lodge be considered inactive.
Owing to financial and other problems that developed, the Fayette County Council dissolved. Troops were placed on direct service with the National Council.
In the late 1920’s, the Scouts that camped at Camp Wildwood near Normalville, PA started a fraternal organization. They named their organization the Society of the Wigwam and their totem was a chenille style patch of an Indian Chief’s profile. Their ceremonies for induction were based on Indian customs and fraternity-type initiations. The Wigwam was not affiliated with the Order of the Arrow.
In September of 1937, the Westmoreland County Council absorbed the Fayette County Council forming the Westmoreland-Fayette Council. In the summer of 1938, thirty-two members of the Westmoreland-Fayette Council were inducted into the Order of the Arrow at Camp Wesco. The Council Executive Board approved a charter for an Order of the Arrow Lodge on May 7, 1939. This new Lodge became known as Wagion Lodge and was assigned lodge number 147. Since it revived the old Umpah Lodge of Uniontown, the National Lodge confirmed Lodge #6’s revival and reverted the number back to the true and original number. The name “WAGION” was derived from the Indian word meaning Thunderbird. It was chosen as our totem since it symbolized good luck.
The Society of the Wigwam dissolved after the new Westmoreland-Fayette Council closed Camp Wildwood. At the time of the closing (1949), all Wigwam members were given the opportunity to transfer as Ordeal members into Wagion Lodge. They had one year to do this. After one year they had to be elected and take the Ordeal in the normal manner.
Mr. E. T. Ewing, the first Scout Executive of the new Council did much to insure the growth of Scouting and prosperity of our Lodge. The 88 Troops of the new Council camped at Camp Wesco and Camp Wildwood. As Scouting and interest in camping grew the Council secured the use of Camp Pleasant in Laurel Hill State Park. This camp now is known as group camp #2 in the park.
In 1943, representatives from Anicus Lodge 57 inducted nine Wagion members into the Brotherhood honor. The OA Circle at Camp Wesco was placed on the ridge of the hill opposite the dining hall. If visiting this site today, you are aware of it by the circle of hemlock trees, which were planted around the OA Circle.
Camp Conestoga was secured in 1949 and developed for the increasing number of Scouts. The first ORDER OF THE ARROW circle at Camp Conestoga was placed in the wooded area behind the rifle range and just behind the present-day Shawnee Campsite. The present circle was built in 1953 in preparation for the Area Fellowship Conclave held at Conestoga the following year. No major changes were made until 1965 when the circle seating was replaced for the first time with the old log seats from the Barclay Campfire Circle (and have been replaced four times since), the candle holders were converted from logs to steel pipe, and the bear-skin back drop was replaced.
Other changes at that time included; constructing the altar behind the circle with stones from Camp Wesco, building a new shed for storage, cementing the stone altars, and planting trees.
WAGION LODGE #6 – BEYOND THE LODGE
Between 1954 and 1973 our lodge was assigned to Area 3-F. The outstanding leadership development provided by our Lodge produced two Area conference chiefs: Art Seitz (1956) and Ed Lewis (1966). We also produced an Area Leader who received the Distinguished Service Award in 1963, Dwayne E. Welling. Wagion hosted the Area Conferences of 1954, 1960, 1966 and 1972.
In June 1973, Northeast Section 5-C was organized and replaced the former Area 3-F. Wagion Lodge has provided leaders for the Section since its inception. Wagion Lodge had the honor of providing the first Section Chief, Vince Johnson (1973-74). Mitch Clauser (1976-77), Tom Vater (1979-80), Dave Hostoffer (1982-83), and Mark Henry (1985-87) also have served as Section 5-C Chiefs. In 1982, Charles L. Dunn was appointed Section 5-C Advisor. In addition, several other Lodge brothers held Area offices and various Area Committee Chairmanships. Wagion has hosted the Section Conclave in 1976, 1984, and 1992.
In 1988, Mark Henry served as a Conference Vice Chief at the National Order of the Arrow Conference. Henry received the Distinguished Service Award in 1990, marking Wagion’s second member to receive the honor.
In June 1997, owing to the reorganization of the NE Region, Section 4B was organized replacing the old Section 5. Wagion hosted the 4B Section Conclave in 2001 and 2008. Section NE-4B saw 3 chiefs from Wagion, John Krempecki (2000-2001), Kenneth Hager serving two terms (2005-2007), and Tom Price (2007-2008). Dan Wright served as Associate Section Adviser (2006-2011).
In June 2008, the NER reorganized and NE-4B was again divided. Wagion remained in 4B with 4 other lodges (57, 103, 275, 540). Wagion provided the first Section Chief of the new NE-4B with Allen Martello (2008-2009).
In June 2011, Section NE-4B again changed when lodges Enda Lechauhanne 57 and Nachamawat 275 merged and Kuskitannee 168 rejoined 4B. During the third realigment of NE-4B, Wagion once again provided the first Section Chief in Eric Bush (2011-2012). Kenneth Hager served as an Associate Section Adviser (2011). Wagion was selected to host the 2013 Conclave at Camp Conestoga.
Notably, a youth leader from Wagion Lodge has held the office of Section Chief in 20 of the past 39 years (1972-2011), and nine of the past eleven years (2000-2011).
In December of 2006, Kenneth Hager was elected as the 2007 Northeast Region Chief. He became the first National Officer and National OA Committee Member from Wagion Lodge. Hager was recognized in 2009 with the Distinguished Service Award. This marked Wagion’s third recipient of the DSA.
In December of 2011, Eric Bush was elected as the 2012 Northeast Region Chief. Bush lead the 2012 National Order of the Arrow Conference in East Lansing, Michigan. In 2015, Bush was recognized with the Distinguished Service Award, marking Wagion’s fourth DSA recipient.
In 2016, Aaron Coffman was elected to the office of Section Chief for NE-4B. Coffman was reelected in 2017.
WAGION LODGE #6 – SERVICE ABOVE SELF (1965-2011)
Service to the Council’s camps has been the highlight of our accomplishments. Among the projects completed at Conestoga were: The purchase of resuscitation equipment for the swimming pool, the purchase and installation of a metal flagpole at the main parade ground, at Ruth Rhoda Lake, and at the Buck Run parade grounds; five renovations to the Barclay campfire circle, the building of the Wagion Training Center (Aug. 1965), and two renovations of the Camp Showerhouse which is now the visitors restroom facility (as of 1990). The Lodge has also built a paint shed for the camp, a large Handicrafts Pavilion on the path to Barclay Campfire Circle (1980’s), and smaller Pavilions in the Grove, Hill, and Buck Run. In 1985, the Lodge re-shingled the Wagion Training Center, Miller Lodge, several latrines, and the Dining Hall. In 1986, re-shingling continued with the Kunkle Staff Lodge, Ewing Administration Building, Sipe Health Lodge, and activities buildings on Raccoon Ridge and Rocky Ridge. The Lodge also built a parking area at Camp Buck Run and performed a variety of maintenance projects at Camp Conestoga and Camp Tenacharison.
In 1987, the Lodge refurbished the concrete pool apron and built Wolenter Lodge at Camp Tenacharison. In 1988-1989, the Lodge built the Grove and Hill Showerhouses and the Scruggs Pavilion at Camp Tenacharison. In 1991, the Lodge built the COPE climbing and rappelling Boat Tower near Ruth Rhoda Lake. In 1993, the Lodge constructed the showerhouse at Camp Buck Run. In 1994, the Lodge built the Buck Run pavilion, and in 1995, two flush toilets on each ridge at Buck Run.
In 1997, the Lodge helped finance a portion of the new mile-and-one-quarter main waterline feeding Buck Run and Conestoga. 1999 marked the dedication of Rohrbacher Center – Conestoga’s premier central-camp office and training facility. Camp Conestoga also witnessed the development of a sand volleyball pit and the introduction of an improved COPE course.
The decade of 2000-2010 noted several camp improvements, including the building of a generator structure, refurbishment of the Brinker Trading Post (2009), relocation of the Graham Activities Center to the Valley (OA) Pavilion (2008), repairs to the Barclay Campfire Circle (2011), and massive repairs to the Uncle Ben Robinson Dining Hall (2009-2012). The Lodge also led construction of the Smily Family Walkway (2001-2003): a brick walkway for Scouts who have special needs in traversing the fields between the Dining Hall, Rohrbacher Center, Valley Showerhouse, and Pool.
The Lodge dedicated the OA Circle to Dwayne E. Welling in 2004 in an effort lead by Ed Lewis. Welling is recognized as the “father” of the modern Wagion Lodge and among the Lodge’s most admired and venerated brothers. He is credited with devising the “Thunderbird Award,” a recognition for exemplary leadership and service to Wagion Lodge presented annually to a youth and an adult Arrowman. Welling, in all accords, is the proudest and most iconic member of Wagion Lodge – first in song and laughter, reverence and respect. In 2015, he was presented with the Centurion Award by the National OA Committee. In 2016, Welling passed away at his home in Addison, PA while surrounded by his family and friends.
Noteworthy is the dedication of the “Weekend Warriors,” a group of Wagion brothers who constantly attend to the maintenance and repairs to the properties of the Westmoreland Fayette Council. This group of volunteers, under the leadership of former Lodge Chief Fred Franks (1975-1976) and aided by Ross Hackle, Tom Irwim, Jim Gettins, Bill Hogel, Herb Harris, and Bobby Frye – among many others – deserves the gratitude of all.
In 2015, Wagion unveiled the Hemlock Society, an avenue of service whereby Arrowman may choose to make a distinguished financial contribution to the Westmoreland Fayette Council. Through this extraordinary service, Hemlock Society members intend to preserve the legacy of Scouting in the Westmoreland and Fayette Counties for many years to come.
Without Wagion Lodge, the upkeep and care of the beautiful facility at Camp Conestoga would be impossible. Thousands of Scouts each year are able to attend summer camp through the countless volunteer hours and dedication of the brothers of Wagion Lodge 6.
WAGION LODGE #6 – PATH TO 100 YEARS (2011-2021)
Wagion Lodge has grown to become one of the strongest Lodges in the Order of the Arrow program, with one of the riches and most revered histories. Our officers and committee chairmen have worked diligently to provide a well-rounded program aimed at carrying out the objectives of the Order of the Arrow. We, as a Lodge, have done much to be proud of and grown to be a vital part of the Scouting program in the Westmoreland-Fayette Council, B.S.A.
Edited by: D. Boyer, K. Hager, T. Price